TORONTO - Andy Acho is not offended if you call him a rat.
He created Ford's RAT Patrol -the company's Recycling Action Team that is dedicated to finding ways to use recycled materials in production vehicles.
Acho is a champion for environmental causes within Ford. His job, as Ford director of environmental outreach and strategy, is to encourage corporate environmental action beyond what Ford is required to do by law.
He has diverted millions of square meters of used carpet into car parts. He is trying to save a rare Mexican antelope. And he is keeping assembly plant waste out of Brazilian waterways.
'We can't lead in corporate citizenship unless we also are a major leader in environmental stewardship,' Acho said.
Acho, 58, is an unlikely Green advocate. He admits that he was a skeptical convert to ideas such as using recycled materials in Ford cars and trucks.
Acho has worked for Ford for 38 years, in quality control, manufacturing, product engineering, sales and marketing and corporate strategy.
Before he became a corporate crusader, Acho was investigating how Ford could create a manufacturing presence in low-volume global markets.
Acho's RAT patrol has already changed the content in Ford cars and trucks: Ford now uses annually the equivalent of 50 million two-liter plastic soda-pop bottles to make car parts, such as grille-opening reinforcements.
The company makes three million air cleaner housings annually out of recycled carpeting.
'That means we are keeping 2.4 million square meters of carpeting out of landfills each year,' Acho said.
Ford has 17 ecologically friendly 'Wildlife at Work' sites at company locations in the UK, Mexico, Canada and the USA.
In Istanbul, Turkey, he promoted the Henry Ford European Conservation Awards. He also met company officials to discuss waste management at Ford locations in Turkey.
William Clay Ford Jr., a member of the Ford board of directors and chairman of its environmental and public policy committee, helped create Acho's job in 1991.
'I was working for Bill Ford. I had just come back from India where I was part of the negotiating team to form a joint venture in India,' Acho said. 'Mr. Ford suggested working on environmental issues because he felt very strongly that we should do much more than is required by law.'
Still not enough
Ford's small steps may be laudable, but the company needs to be making giant environmental strides, said one environmentalist.
'Whatever they do makes a difference,' said Ann Mesnikoff of the US-based Sierra Club's global warming and energy program. 'But when it comes to big pollution problems and global warming they are not doing what they need to be doing and that is improving Corporate Average Fuel Economy.'
Ford sells so many light trucks that the company is falling short of federal CAFE standards.
But because of the complicated system of CAFE credits, Ford has not been found to be in violation of the CAFE law.
'The Ford F-150 gets 15 miles per gallon (6.5 liters per 100km) of gasoline. That is not doing anyone any good,' Mesnikoff said. 'They have the opportunity to make big differences in global warming but they are not doing it.'
At first, some Ford executives did not want to know about Acho's ideas.
'It isn't because they were against it. But there were so many other objectives they had to meet,' Acho said. 'Now, our present management keeps the environment as one of the major elements that everybody has to look at.'
Ford has committed itself to ensuring that all its 140 manufacturing plants meet ISO 14001 international environmental standards by the end of 1998.
Acho does not oversee every one of these efforts personally. But he carries the flag for environmental awareness throughout Ford offices. Asked the size of his staff, he points to Ford's worldwide workforce of some 360,000 employees.
'All I can do is lead by example and ideas,' he said. 'I provide the support.'